The kitchen cook needed an assistant.  Bob hired me on the spot.  He needed someone now.  I put on the white cook costume and walked up to the line, noted the fryers (we had no fryers at the Bo Tree) and asked Bob what those were.  He glared at me.

“Where did you cook?”

I mumbled, “I cooked at the Bo Tree, over on 22nd and 34th Street.  I cooked vegetarian food.”

It was very confusing at first, juggling dozens of orders coming in from the breakfast room that opened out onto the pool patio overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  Waitresses barked their orders at me and clipped them to the revolving carousel.  Slowly I developed short-order reflexes.  I went from slow and confused to quick and less confused to lightning fast and unconscious.  I loved to have a woman tell me what she wanted and then I pleased her.  I still couldn’t embark in the sexual banter that was the trademark communication between male kitchen and female wait staff, but I adored the rhythmic, quick dance of satisfaction that characterized short-order work.  I had no girlfriend.  Relationship terrified me.  Short-order felt like a satisfactory substitute.

A few weeks into my new profession, Megan, one of the attractive, younger girls, croaked out her order through the horizontal window.  She looked extremely pale.  There was a pause in the rush, and I told her she should go home.  She looked sick.

“I can’t go home.  I need the money,” she said with difficulty.  She seemed angry.

“OK,” I said, thinking she was angry at me.

“I need the money.  I had an abortion this morning.  I need the money to pay for the abortion.”

The café served only breakfast and lunch.  Breaking down around 3:00 p.m., the day’s production often provided leftovers I could take home.  This day there was a stack of blueberry muffins they were going to throw out.  I bagged up maybe a dozen, walked out the side door into the parking lot and then another 20 yards to the white sand beach.  Cranes and pelicans circled overhead.  Seagulls scurried along the shore.  I walked a ways along the waves headed north and then toward the bars.  Reaching the road, I half consciously began pulling out muffins, breaking them up in my hands and tossing crumbs to sea gulls.  I wasn’t paying attention.  I was thinking about Megan.  Then the noise hit me like a wave and I realized there were perhaps four or five dozen seagulls flying above me, walking around me, screaming for muffins.  I reflexively grabbed several, crumbling them, throwing them, and there was chaos.

A hundred seagulls were swarming me for muffins.  I had no idea blueberry muffins to a seagull were like honey to a bee.  They were screaming.  Wings were beating in my ears.

Hunching down, grabbing the last muffins out of the bag, I threw them as far from me as I could.  They landed in the road.  The seagulls swarmed the road.  There were cars.

I did not cause an accident, but there were fatalities.  Three of the seagulls were dead.

I buried them in the beach.

I walked back to the Hilton where my car was parked.  I drove my beat-up Chevy home.


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